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Hyundai and Kia Theta II Engine Sludge Defect Class Action

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2017 Hyundai Sonata

Plaintiff Andrea Smolek says she was driving on the highway when she heard loud sounds from the engine area of her Kia Sorrento. Then came a loud bang, she claims, her vehicle shook violently, and the Check Engine light came on. Smolek was able to safely pull over and have her vehicle towed for repair, but the complaint for this class action claims that the problem was due to a defect in the car’s Theta II engine—a defect that cannot be repaired except by replacing the engine with another defective Theta II engine.

The class for this action is all current or former owners of Hyundai and Kia Class Vehicles with Theta II engines that were not recalled in Hyundai’s September 10, 2015 recall, Hyundai’s March 31, 2017 recall, or Kia’s March 31, 2017 recall.

Plaintiff Smolek had bought her car in October 2014, and the problem on the highway occurred in April 2016, when the car was only about a year and a half old. When a technician opened the crankcase of the engine, the complaint says, he found that the oil “had turned to sludge.”

Although Smolek was able to present oil change records to show that she had changed the oil in keeping with Kia’s recommendations, the complaint says, Kia denied her warranty claim, and a repair technician told her that if she did not replace her engine before leaving the dealership, she would void her powertrain warranty.

According to the complaint, however, the problem is the engine itself, which is designed in such a way that contaminants can enter the oil supply, causing a knocking noise, a reduction in power, and even stalling. When the oil becomes too thick with contaminants, the complaint says, it can fail abruptly, causing a loss not only of power but also of power steering—a very dangerous situation for both the car’s occupants and the other vehicles around it.

The complaint points out that the engine is covered by the company’s ten-year, 100,000 mile powertrain warranty, but it says that the company has denied warranty coverage for the problem, instead blaming the problem on poor maintenance or the use of aftermarket oil filters.

The complaint claims that between 2015 and 2017, the company recalled one and a half million vehicles with the faulty Theta II engine, but it also claims that the company did not admit to the defect and attributed the problems to metal debris left in the engine after manufacturing.

However, according to a Reuters article, a Hyundai engineer told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2016 that Hyundai and Kia have known about the defect, which affects all Theta II engines, and that more vehicles should have been recalled.

The complaint quotes many online complaints from Hyundai Sonata and Kia Sorrento owners and claims breach of warranties as well as fraud, among other things.

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